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The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Barre Chords

barre chords

On this page, you'll learn what barre chords are, how you can use them to learn just two shapes, and play dozens of different chords, and learn another six to play nearly 100 chords, in all keys.

Table of Contents

About Barre Chords

So what is a barre chord, anyway?

At its most basic level, a barre chord is a chord that can be moved around, and it's the barre that lets you do it.

Let's look at an example.

Imagine that you have this E major chord:

e chord

Sounds great.

Imagine we wanted to play an F major chord.

Now, we know that:

So if we move all the notes in the E major chord up a half step, we should wind up with an F major chord.

Moving an Open Chord

Since each fret is one half step away from the next fret, all we have to do is take all the notes in our E major chord, and move them up by one fret. Like this:

moving notes up to make an F barre chord

This kind of works.

The three strings you had your fingers on all moved up a half a step, to the right notes for the F major chord.

But what about the open strings?

Those are still playing the notes for the E major chord.

The answer is adding a barre.

Barres to the Rescue

To move an open E major chord up a half step, we make a barre with our first finger, going all the way from the thickest sixth string, up to the thinnest first string:

f chord

The barre moves up the open strings one fret each.

E Barre Shape Overview

This is all a barre does: it moves up the open strings onto the fretboard, so that the shapes in front of it can be moved around to other keys.

Suppose you wanted to play an F#, or "F sharp major" chord, we could just move that same shape up one fret:

f sharp chord

Moving up one more, we have a barred version of our G major chord:

A barred version of G Major

And up two more frets, we can play an A:

A barred version of A Major

By learning just this one shape, we can play every single major chord. All we have to know is which note we're playing on the lowest string.

In the next section, you'll learn two shapes each for major and minor, and have tables to practice playing almost fifty (!) chords.

Major Barre Chords

E Shaped Barre Chords

E Barre Shape Overview

E shaped barre chords, or "root 6" barre chords, have their root on the sixth string, and are based on the open E major chord.

How to Play

To play Make a barre at the
C Major 8th fret
Db or C# Major 9th fret
D Major 10th fret
Eb or D# Major 11th fret
E Major 12th fret
F Major 1st fret
F# or Gb Major 2nd fret
G Major 3rd fret
Ab or G# Major 4th fret
A Major 5th fret
Bb or A# Major 6th fret
B Major 7th fret

A Shaped Barre Chords

A Barre Shape Overview

A shaped barre chords, or "root 5" barre chords, ahve their root on the fifth string, and are based on the open A major chord.

How to Play

To play Make a barre at the
C Major 3rd fret
Db or C# Major 4th fret
D Major 5th fret
Eb or D# Major 6th fret
E Major 7th fret
F Major 8th fret
F# or Gb Major 9 fret
G Major 10th fret
Ab or G# Major 11th fret
A Major 12th fret
Bb or A# Major 1st fret
B Major 2nd fret

Minor Barre Chords

Em Shaped Barre Chords

Em Barre Shape Overview

E minor shaped barre chords, or "root 6" minor barre chords, have their root on the sixth string.

To play Make a barre at the
C Minor 8th fret
Db or C# Minor 9th fret
D Minor 10th fret
Eb or D# Minor 11th fret
E Minor 12th fret
F Minor 1st fret
F# or Gb Minor 2nd fret
G Minor 3rd fret
Ab or G# Minor 4th fret
A Minor 5th fret
Bb or A# Minor 6th fret
B Minor 7th fret

Am Shaped Barre Chords

A minor shaped barre chords are based on the open A minor chord, and have their roots on the fifth string.

Am Barre Shape Overview
To play Make a barre at the
C Minor 3rd fret
Db or C# Minor 4th fret
D Minor 5th fret
Eb or D# Minor 6th fret
E Minor 7th fret
F Minor 8th fret
F# or Gb Minor 9 fret
G Minor 10th fret
Ab or G# Minor 11th fret
A Minor 12th fret
Bb or A# Minor 1st fret
B Minor 2nd fret

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Anna Freitas holds a B.A. from Berklee College of Music and performs throughout New England as a guitarist and vocalist. She continues to teach students, both in-person and online via Skype.